Thursday, April 12, 2018

Free speech

What a good idea! But will it be assigned to those who need to read it most.
Heterodox Academy has produced a new book based on John Stuart Mill’s famous essay On Liberty to make it accessible for the 21st century. ....

All Minus One is ideal for use in college courses, advanced high school classes, or in any organization in which people would benefit from productive disagreement. ....
From the Introduction to All Minus One:
From street battles over controversial speakers in Berkeley California to the 'no platforming' movement in British universities to the expansion of hate crime laws in Canada, the English speaking countries are consumed by debates over free speech. The conflict is fiercest on university campuses. Both sides point to rights that must be protected; bath sides point to harms that will be suffered if the other side gets its way. Neither side seems able to convince the other with logic, shame, or violence. It is time to step back and look at the big picture. Why is free speech important in modern liberal democracy? ....

Mill believed that the pursuit of truth required the collation and combination of ideas and propositions, even those that seem to be in opposition to each other. He urged us to allow others to speak—and then to listen to them—for three main reasons.
  • First, the other person's idea, however controversial it seems today, might turn out to be right. ("The opinion may possibly be true.")
  • Second, even if our opinion is largely correct, we hold it more rationally and securely as a remit of being challenged. ("He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.")
  • Third, and in Mill's view most likely, opposing views may each contain a portion of the truth, which need to be combined. ("Conflicting doctrines share the truth between them.")
For free speech to be valuable to the pursuit of truth, we all need to be both humble and open. We need humility to recognize that we might not be right about everything all of the time, and that we have something to learn from others. We also need to be open to the possibility of altering our views, opinions, and even values based on our engagement with the world. In other words, our identity as a person must be kept separable from the ideas we happen to endorse at a given time. Otherwise, when those ideas are criticized, we are likely to experience a conversation, book, or lecture as an attack upon our self, rather than as an opportunity to think about something more deeply. ....
The book can be downloaded as a pdf here. The pdf is free. The Kindle version linked on the same page is only $2.99. There will eventually be a physical edition.

ALL MINUS ONE: John Stuart Mill’s Ideas on Free Speech Illustrated – Heterodox Academy